Important Technological Developments during Industrial Revolution


  • A major change in the metal industries during the era of the Industrial Revolution was the replacement of wood and other bio-fuels with coal. For a given amount of heat, coal required much less labour to mine than cutting wood and converting it to charcoal, and coal was more abundant than wood.
  • Use of coal in smelting started somewhat before the Industrial Revolution, based on innovations by Sir Clement Clerke from 1678, using coal reverberatory furnaces known as cupolas.
  • This was followed by Abraham Darby, who made great strides using coke to fuel his blast furnaces in 1709. Henry Cort developed two significant iron manufacturing processes: rolling in 1783 and puddling in 1784
  • Up to that time, British iron manufacturers had used considerable amounts of imported iron to supplement native supplies. This came principally from Sweden from the mid-17th century and later also from Russia from the end of the 1720s. However, from 1785, imports decreased because of the new iron making technology, and Britain became an exporter of bar iron as well as manufactured wrought iron consumer goods.
  • Hot blast, patented by James Beaumont Neilson in 1828, was the most important development of the 19th century for saving energy in making pig iron.
  • An improvement was made in the production of steel, which was an expensive commodity and used only where iron would not do, such as for cutting edge tools and for springs. Benjamin Huntsman developed his crucible steel technique in the 1740s.
  • The supply of cheaper iron and steel aided a number of industrie. The development of machine tools allowed better working of iron, causing it to be increasingly used in the rapidly growing machinery and engine industries.


  • (Discussed in first part)

Steam power

  • The development of the stationary steam engine was an important element of the Industrial Revolution; however, for most of the period of the Industrial Revolution, the majority of industrial power was supplied by water and wind.
  • The first real attempt at industrial use of steam power was due to Thomas Savery in 1698. A fundamental change in working principles was brought about by Scotsman James Watt who had succeeded by 1778 in perfecting his steam engine.


  • The large scale production of chemicals was an important development during the Industrial Revolution. The first of these was the production of sulphuric acid by the lead chamber process invented by the Englishman John Roebuck in 1746. Many other chemicals were invented and manufactured.
  • After 1860 the focus on chemical innovation was in dyestuffs, and Germany took world leadership, building a strong chemical industry.


  • Industrial technologies that affected farming included the seed drill, the Dutch plough, which contained iron parts, and the threshing machine.
  • Machine tools and metalworking techniques developed during the Industrial Revolution eventually resulted in precision manufacturing techniques in the late 19th century for mass-producing agricultural equipment.


  • Coal mining in Britain, particularly in South Wales started early. The limiting factor in minig was the problem of removing water. It could be done by hauling buckets of water up the shaft or to a sough (a tunnel driven into a hill to drain a mine). The introduction of the steam pump by Savery in 1698 and the Newcomen steam engine in 1712 greatly facilitated the removal of water
  • Coal mining was very dangerous owing to the presence of firedamp in many coal seams. Some degree of safety was provided by the safety lamp which was invented in 1816 by Sir Humphry Davy and independently by George Stephenson. However, the lamps proved a false dawn because they became unsafe very quickly and provided a weak light. Firedamp explosions continued, often setting off coal dust explosions, so casualties grew during the entire 19th century.

Effects of Industrial Revolution

Working conditions

  • The working class—who made up 80% of society—had little or no bargaining power with their new employers. Since population was increasing in Great Britain at the same time that landowners were enclosing common village lands, people from the countryside flocked to the towns and the new factories to get work. This resulted in a very high unemployment rate for workers in the first phases of the Industrial Revolution.
  • As a result, the new factory owners could set the terms of work because there were far more unskilled laborers, who had few skills and would take any job, than there were jobs for them. And since the textile industries were so new at the end of the 18th century, there were initially no laws to regulate them. Desperate for work, the migrants to the new industrial towns had no bargaining power to demand higher wages, fairer work hours, or better working conditions.
  • Worse still, since only wealthy people in Great Britain were eligible to vote, workers could not use the democratic political system to fight for rights and reforms. In 1799 and 1800, the British Parliament passed the Combination Acts, which made it illegal for workers to unionize, or combine, as a group to ask for better working conditions.
  • Many of the unemployed or underemployed were skilled workers, such as hand weavers, whose talents and experience became useless because they could not compete with the efficiency of the new textile machines.
  • For the first generation of workers—from the 1790s to the 1840s—working conditions were very tough, and sometimes tragic. Most laborers worked 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, with no paid vacation or holidays.
  • Each industry had safety hazards too; the process of purifying iron, for example, demanded that workers toiled amidst temperatures as high as 130 degrees in the coolest part of the ironworks. Under such dangerous conditions, accidents on the job occurred regularly.
  • Workers could not wander over to chat with their neighbors or family as they would have done while working in the country. They could not return to the village during harvest time to help their families, unless they wanted to lose their jobs. Instead, they were no longer their own bosses; foremen and overseers supervised a new working culture to insure that workers’ actions were focused and efficient.
  • A few workers were able to improve their lot by going into business for themselves or winning a job as a supervisor, But the majority saw very little social mobility.

Living conditions

  • Working in new industrial cities had an effect on people’s lives outside of the factories as well. As workers migrated from the country to the city, their lives and the lives of their families were utterly and permanently transformed.
  • For workers, the quality of life decreased a great deal during the Industrial Revolution.working-class people had little time or opportunity for recreation. Workers spent all the light of day at work and came home with little energy, space, or light to play sports or games. The new industrial pace and factory system were at odds with the old traditional festivals which dotted the village holiday calendar. Plus, local governments actively sought to ban traditional festivals in the cities.
  • Living conditions were, by far, worst for the poorest of the poor. In desperation, many turned to the poorhousesset up by the government. The Poor Law of 1834 created workhouses for the destitute. Poorhouses were designed to be deliberately harsh places to discourage people from staying on “relief” (government food aid). Families, including husbands and wives, were separated upon entering the grounds. They were confined each day as inmates in a prison.


  • One of the defining and most lasting features of the Industrial Revolution was the rise of cities. In pre-industrial society, over 80% of people lived in rural areas. As migrants moved from the countryside, small towns became large cities. By 1850, for the first time in world history, more people in a country—Great Britain—lived in cities than in rural areas. The city of London grew from a population of two million in 1840 to five million forty years later.
  • The small town of Manchester, England also grew rapidly and famously to become the quintessential industrial city. Its cool climate was ideal for textile production. And it was located close to the Atlantic port of Liverpool and the coalfields of Lancashire. The first railroads in the world later connected the textile town to Liverpool. As a result, Manchester quickly became the textile capital of the world, drawing huge numbers of migrants to the city.
  • This process of urbanization stimulated the booming new industries by concentrating workers and factories together. And the new industrial cities became sources of wealth for the nation.
  • Despite the growth in wealth and industry urbanization also had some negative effects. On the whole, working-class neighborhoods were bleak, crowded, dirty, and polluted.
  • In the first half of the 19th century, urban overcrowding, poor diets, poor sanitation, and essentially medieval medical remedies all contributed to very poor public health for the majority of English people.
  • The densely packed and poorly constructed working-class neighborhoods contributed to the fast spread of disease. Homes lacked toilets and sewage systems, and as a result, drinking water sources, such as wells, were frequently contaminated with disease. Cholera, tuberculosis, typhus, typhoid, and influenza ravaged through new industrial towns. Poor nutrition, disease, lack of sanitation, and harmful medical care in these urban areas had a devastating effect on the average life expectancy of British people in the first half of the 19th century.

Child Labor

  • Child labor was, unfortunately, integral to the first factories, mines, and mills in England. In textile mills, as new power looms and spinning mules took the place of skilled workers, factory owners used cheap, unskilled labor to decrease the cost of production. And, child labor was the cheapest labor of all. Some of these machines were so easy to operate that a small child could perform the simple, repetitive tasks. The tedious and dangerous factory work had negative effects on the health of children.
  • In the 1830s, the British Parliament began investigating the conditions in factories for children. One Member of Parliament, Michael Sadler, started a committee, in 1832, to send investigators out to factories to interview children and gather evidence about their working conditions. Sadler sought to pass a bill through Parliament to decrease child labor and regulate all factories to have a 10-hour work day.

Working Class Families and The Role of Women

  • The Industrial Revolution completely transformed the role of the family. In traditional, agricultural society, families worked together as a unit of production. Women could parent and also play a role in producing food or goods needed for the household. Work and play time were flexible and interwoven.
  • Industrialization changed all that. The same specialization of labor that occurred in factories occurred in the lives of working-class families, and this broke up the family economy. Work and home life became sharply separated. Men earned money for their families. Women took care of the home and saw their economic role decline. While many factory workers were initially women, most of them were young women who would quit working when they married.
  • In stark contrast to the various changing tasks that a farmer performed in pre-industrial society, factory workers typically completed repetitive and monotonous tasks for 10 to 14 hours each day.
  • Industrial working-class families, though not working together, did serve an economic purpose of raising money to support each other. As we have seen, children often worked to earn some income for the family. In difficult circumstances, mothers struggled to make ends meet and keep the family out of the poorhouses.

The Emerging Middle Class

  • Gradually, a middle class emerged in industrial cities, mostly toward the end of the 19th century. Until then, there had been only two major classes in society: aristocrats born into their lives of wealth and privilege, and low-income commoners born in the working classes. However new urban industries gradually required more of “white collar” jobs, such as business people, shopkeepers, bank clerks, insurance agents, merchants, accountants, managers, doctors, lawyers, and teachers.
  • In this new middle class, families became a sanctuary from stressful industrial life. Home remained separate from work and took on the role of emotional support, where women of the house created a moral and spiritual safe harbor away from the rough-and-tumble industrial world outside. Most middle-class adult women were discouraged from working outside the home. They could afford to send their children to school. As children became more of an economic burden, and better health care decreased infant mortality, middle-class women gave birth to fewer children.

Worker’s Income

  • Life did not improved for the working class in the first phase of the Industrial Revolution, from 1790 to 1850. Real wages also did not increase for workers during this time period. However, real wages adjusted for inflation stayed basically steady from 1790 to 1840.
  • But, after 1840 or 1850,  as England entered the second phase of the Industrial Revolution, it appears that real wages began to increase.Also working conditions slightly improved.

Other Effects of Industrialisation

  • Capitalism and two class society (Proletariat: Wage Earners. Bourgeois: Capitalists) were by product of Industrial Revolution.
  • Industrial Revolution gave rise to new colonialism to search for more market and source for raw material.
  • Socialism emerged as a critique of capitalism. Marxism began essentially as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution.
  • Trade Unionism of workers developed due to Industrial Revolution.
  • Reforms movements and Chartism in Britain was also result of Industrial Revolution.
  • Romanticism: During the Industrial Revolution an intellectual and artistic hostility towards the new industrialisation developed, associated with the Romantic movement. Its major exponents in English included the artist and poet William Blake and others. The movement stressed the importance of “nature” in art and language, in contrast to “monstrous” machines and factories.
  • Many new philosophic doctrines developed due to ill effects of Industrial Revolution including Socialism, Romanticism

Ecological Effect

  • The Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in Earth’s ecology and humans’ relationship with their environment.  It was the fossil fuel coal that fueled the Industrial Revolution, forever changing the way people would live and utilize energy. While this propelled human progress to extraordinary levels, it came at extraordinary costs to our environment, and ultimately to the health of all living things.

Reforms for Change in Britain

  • During the Industrial Revolution, factories were criticized for long work hours, deplorable conditions, and low wages. Children as young as 5 and 6 could be forced to work a 12-16 hour day and earn as little as 4 shillings per week.
  • Finally seeing a problems, the British parliament passed many acts. The first factory act Health and Morals of Apprentices Act 1802 tried to help the condition for workers. The act tried to make factory owners more responsible for the housing and clothing for the workers, but with little success.
  • Regulation of Child Labor Law 1833
    1. Established paid inspectors to inspect factories on child labor regulations and enforce the law
    2. Set the maximum working in a week to 48 hours
    3. Made children to spend time in school
  • Mines and Collieries Act 1842
    1. Set a minimum age for children to work in mines at 10
    2. Made it that no woman or girl could work in the mines
  • Factories Act 1844
    1. Limited working hour to 12 per day for women and children
    2. Mill owners are more account for protection for workers
  • Ten Hours Bill 1847
    1. Limited working hours to 10 per day for women and children
    2. Set a maximum hours in a week to 63 for women and children


Q. The Industrial Revolution “Changed England in character & culture”. Comment.

Q. Mention social, cultural, technological, political, economic impacts of Industrial Revolution.